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Ancient Egyptian Civilization And Culture History Essay

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Ancient Egypt was one of the oldest cultures that ever existed. It was around 5000 years ago! This land flourished because of the Nile River.

The literature discovered by archaeologists dates back to over 7000 years ago. In the early Egyptian times, medicine was practiced most often by priests, not doctors or physicians. There were three main types of early healers, the priest physician, lay physician, and the magician-physician. The priest physicians were ranked highest among physicians because they practiced a combination of clinical and spiritual medicine. The priest physicians were in such a high favor that it is most likely they were part of the Egyptian hierarchy, and involved with the state officials and pharaohs. It is unknown if the priest physicians ever received medical training. They were permitted to examine patients and participate in minor tasks. All diseases except those of the eye, were treated by a clergy who specialized with their own rule and hierarchy known as the Priests of Sekhmet. Gradually the physicians would gain their medical knowledge and would combine it with their knowledge of magic to become an effective and respected healer.

Its annual inundation created fertile lands that supported life. The Ancient Egyptian worshipped many gods like Re, (the sun god) Isis, Seth, and Horus. Ancient Egyptians had a supreme and powerful ruler called the Pharaoh.
One of the most famous ancient doctors is Imhotep. He was a great privilege to have as a Pharaoh. He worked in the court of the pharaoh Khasekhem. When he was finished, he turned to the speechless women and said, ‘on these wounds, compresses of fresh meat must be applied and new ones must be reapplied five times daily. After this, the patient should drink milk mixed with beef gall bladder….’ This is an exert from Pierre Montalauer’s book about Imhotep. It refers to the ordeal of the birth of the great Pharaoh Djoser. After the deliverance, the queen of the Upper Egyptian capital, received a tear of the perineum. Imhotep quickly bandaged and stitched the wound. The exert is Imhotep giving the queen instructions to follow in order to let the wound heal properly. He saved the queen but around the same time his wife died giving birth to his son. He then locked himself in with his wife for forty days to mummify her. This was the first recorded process of mummification known. He committed a large part of his life to Djoser the future Pharaoh. He played a major role in the court, was vizier to his king , he was a great architect and astrologist. In some legends it says that he ended the seven year drought by creating an elaborate system of irrigation, organizing fisheries, and he also preserved food. Imhotep built the first pyramid in the world, the step mastaba of Saqara. It was erected over the resting place of Pharaoh’s wife who was buried in the Nile Delta.

The pharaohs were considered to be a god of Egypt. The pharaohs ruled the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom. There were also much more cultural activities like, the custom of mummification, written language like Hieroglyphics, the use of spices, medicine, and papyrus, which was unique to ancient Egypt.
Archaeologists have discovered many papyrus’, but some containing more information then others. The most famous of these is the Papyrus Ebers. It was found by an Arab in Luxor who discovered it while excavating a tomb. He demanded a large sum of money for the purchase, so with the financial support of a friend, George Ebers purchased the Papyrus. They dated back to the period between 1553-1550 BC. It was a collection of texts from the Old Empire that gave instructions on how to cure wounds, fractures, dislocations, and many other types of illnesses. They described how to treat fractures, they would use splints bound with bandages. When the Papyrus Ebers was written, Egypt was at it’s highest medical achievement. Historians can come to the conclusion that the papyrus belonged to the Pharaoh Amenhotep (1557-1501 BC) . It is the most accurate account of early Egyptian medicine ever written. At this time medicine was much freer of magic then before. It is used as the founding book of knowledge for ancient Egyptian medicine. Much of the contents of the papyrus, deal with constipation, giving several effective cures that in some parts of the world, are still used today. The Papyrus Ebers consisted of 108 columns divided into forty-five groups. The second group for example would describe various kinds of laxatives, while group four describes stomach ailments. The texts contained in the Papyrus Ebers are difficult to understand, and there are many unknown terms used within.

Egyptian Topics

Mummies

The belief about preserving the body and afterlife

Mummies are preserved bodies that do not rot. Egyptians believed that mummies keep living in another world even when they are dead.

Trachoma causes fifty percent of all blindness, and is contagious. It is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachoma’s, and it forms tiny blisters on the conjunctiva. The eye specialists would treat it by applying a mixture of sodium carbonate, black mascara, and red ocher. They were able to perform surgeries on the eye where they would remove the iris and remove a piece of rock or metal. Another specialty was the treating of the teeth. Ancient Egyptian doctors who specialized in dental care, are not believed to have had knowledge of dental surgery because no evidence has been found in any written texts. But archaeological finds show that attempts have been made.

Back then, the Egyptians believed that the Egyptian gods weighed the person's heart when he/she tries to enter the next life. They also believed that pharaohs became gods after mummification, and they would need their bodies.
All physicians of Egypt were regarded in high favor of the kings. They were given such titles as “Chief of all court physicians” The nobles also used the term “body physicians.” These “body physicians,” were permanently employed. Historians and archaeologists are unsure of the methods of payment for these physicians, but they know that the general physicians who went into the land were paid by natural resources such as a gold ring or bracelet. It was a family tradition to become a doctor. It is unsure whether the position was inherited or the fathers just wanted to pass down their knowledge to their sons. They can come to the conclusion that all physicians were well looked after and were a valuable asset to all pharaoh. In wartime and on journeys anywhere within Egypt, the sick are all treated free of charge, because doctors are paid by the state. Court physicians had the same advantages of those who went out to the war front. They were paid directly by the pharaoh so a wounded soldier in battle would be able to receive free treatment.

Mummification process - Mummy recipe

To preserve the mummies' body, Egyptian embalmers first cleaned the body with palm wine. Then took all the organs out of the body, then they took the brain out through the nose using a long metal hook.

It is now known that Egyptian medicine contributed greatly to modern medicine. Many of the therapies used today are similar to those used in ancient Egyptian times such as the method of treating a fractured bone. They were the first to use electrotherapy to cure pain, and also have an understanding of what happened. The first ever mummification was in Egypt and the process was used for centuries to come by all Egyptian peoples. With the discoveries of more and more papyrus’, ancient Egyptian’s are now getting the credit they deserve for their contributions to modern medicine.

They took every organ out except the heart. The heart remained in the body for the gods to measure. The organs were packed with natrons and spices and were put into four canopic jars, and later placed in the tomb of the mummy.
They discovered a mandible from the Fourth Dynasty that indicates that there was an attempt to drill a hole in one of the teeth. Possibly the first prosthesis was found in 1929 in Giza where two teeth were found with gold wire fixed to the teeth. Also they have found several mummies with artificial teeth. The study of several mummies indicates poor teeth condition. This can be attributed to the lack of nutrition, mostly lower class citizens. In the Papyrus Ebers, they found parts of a dental monograph titled “The Beginning of Remedies for Stronger Teeth.” Carious teeth were treated with a mixture of ocher, flour, spelt, and honey. Fillings were made out of a combination of malachite and resin.

Next the embalmers put natron salt inside and they rubbed it with oils and spices, while saying prayers as well. After 70 days, the body was taken out and wrapped around in papyrus or thin strips of lenen.
The Ancient Egyptian doctors and physicians used many types of natural resources to cure patients. In one case it was discovered that they used the electrical charge of the Malapterusus electricus, a close relative of the electric eel, was used to cure certain kinds of pain. To cure the gout, the patient would step on the electric eel, then place the other foot on a wet beach then wait until the leg is numb up to the knee. But the electric eel’s charges were too week to cure some ailments so the used the organs of some fish that produced electrical charges. At first history believed that the first case of leeches being used for medical purposes was in 135 AD by the Greek Nikandros. He described that the leeches were placed on the body and would clear out blood and congested fluids. They now know that 2,000 years earlier, this procedure was common in Egypt. They do not know how this was done, whether they actually cut open the vein with a knife, or used some other method.

The embalmers then placed Egyptian spices around the mummy. Then sculptures made masks and coffins for the mummy, and would embellish it with jewels and paintings. The mummy's coffin was then placed inside a tomb.
The Nile river is known almost universally by historians as the cradle of medicine because it passes through the great region of Egypt. Egypt greatly contributed to the western civilization. Their knowledge was far superior to any previous civilization, and many civilizations to come. One of their greatest achievements was in the field of medicine because they replaced myth with medical fact, this laid the foundations for modern medical practice. They discovered the cause of various illnesses and developed a cure. They practiced both medical and spiritual healing so the worlds of religion and science could coexist. With the discoveries of several papyrus’, we are learning more and more about their knowledge of the human anatomy.

Over the tomb, colossal pyramids were built for important people like the pharaohs and their family members.

Interesting Mummy Facts

A total of about 70 million mummies were made in 3000 years! Mummies are made naturally or by embalming. Natural mummies just become dried out in the sun or buried in the ice or get smoked. Mummies are dead rulers, poor people or animals.

Ancient Egypt is a wonderful land of mystery. People today still have no idea how to duplicate some of the achievements of Ancient Egyptians. Egypt became a great civilization due to many things, but there were three that seem to stand out above the rest. They were the geography, culture, and Architecture.

It is believed that pharaohs became gods after mummification. In 1929, in the Valley of Kings, Mr. Carter and his team discovered the intact tomb of King Tutankhamun, and his mummy. This discovery made us more aware of some of the Ancient Egyptian way of life.
Their remedies are not all that different from our own. They used various kinds of pills, potions, pouttices, suppositories, and plasters. They had the knowledge to prevent wounds and cure many types of animal bites such as the crocodile. The doctors and physicians would suggest moldy bread to prevent blisters, intestinal diseases, and suppurating wounds. They developed a cure for the cough that goes as follows: pieces of plant and mineral substances should be heated on hot stones. A pot with a hole bored into it should be put on top of this and a pipe should be put into the hole. The patient must “swallow” the herbal steam seven times. And because the mouth dries out, it should be rinsed out with oil.

Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

Belief and Mythology

Ancient Egyptians worshiped many gods and goddesses. They existed in people's minds to give them explanation for everyday event of life and give the confidence to conduct their every day activity.

The lay physicians also practiced a combination of clinical and spiritual healing. Unlike the priest physician, the lay physicians were most likely trained to practice medicine. They were most likely derived from priests who had knowledge of the anatomy, and from magicians because they weren’t associated with any particular god or temple. The role of a lay physician wasn’t only open to males, unlike the priest physicians, there are records of women physicians. Although the duties of the lay physician are vague due to the lack of information contained in the medical papyri, we can assume that they were closely linked to the field of surgery because of their medical training. The last type of physician called the magician-physician, was not trained in medicine and only used spells to cure the ill. This signifies that although the Egyptians made advances in the field of medicine, the aspect of magic never their medicine.

This strong belief led them to respect their gods. They made it a practice to offer gods their prayers, offering and other sacrifices. There are many interesting myths about the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses.
Egypt can be divided into four major regions: the Nile Valley and Delta, the Arabian Desert, the Libyan Desert, and the Sinai. The Nile River valley is about 950 mi. long. In the south the valley is rarely more than 2 mi. wide. "North of EDFU (Idfu) the valley averages 5 to 10 mi. in width, with steep cliffs on either side" . From Cairo to the north, the valley merges with the fertile delta. "Southwest of Cairo near the town of Al-Faiyum, a large depression called the Faiyum Depression, covering about 700-sq. mi. in area, was left when Lake Moeris evaporated." Today Lake Birket Qarun, a shallow lake, occupies part of the depression, 150 ft below sea level. The depression is extremely fertile and is noted for its orchards and gardens.

This is a Lower Egyptian myth. At the beginning, there was only the ocean. Ra or Re, the sun god came out of it. He spit out four children. Shu and Tefnut became the atmosphere. Geb was the Earth and Nut was the sky. Geb and Nut married and had two sons called Seth and Osiris, and two daughters called Isis and Nephthys. Seth became the god of the chaotic world and Osiris became the underworld god. Isis was the mother of all gods, who resurrected and married her brother Osiris and their son was Horus the sky god. He was believed to be Re himself and considered very powerful.
The Arabian Desert, known in Egypt as the Eastern Desert, is an extension of the Sahara. It consists of a plateau that slopes upward from the Nile to heights of about 2,000 ft. On the east a range of jagged mountains reaching 7,175 ft at Mount Jabal Shayib Al-Banat borders it. There are few oases, and the region is sparsely populated. The southern part of the Eastern Desert, the Nubian Desert, is a rocky plateau extending south into Sudan. The Sinai Peninsula is also part of the Eastern Desert. "In the south, the Sinai is a highland dominated by Jabal Katerina at 8,668 ft the highest mountain in Egypt." The Libyan Desert, known in Egypt as the Western Desert, is a great arid plain, most of it lying below 1,000 ft. Great sand-dune formations form an effective barrier along the Egyptian-Libyan border. The southern part of the Western Desert has no oase...

Nephthys was the goddess and a friend to all women and the dead.

Gods and Goddesses

There were many gods in ancient Egypt. Some of the important gods and goddesses are: Re (Amun-Re, Amon-Re) was the most important god to the ancient Egyptian people. He was the most powerful king of the gods and was often pictured as a falcon flying through the beautiful sky. Hapi was the god who brought inundation to life. He was shown as man with a papyrus plant growing from his head. Aton was the sun god the Pharaoh Akhenaten worshiped. He was believed to have been frequently neglected due to his deformity. Osiris was the underworld and death god. He was killed by his own brother Seth, who was very jealous of Osiris. It is thought all pharaohs became Osiris when they died. Isis was a popular goddess of ancient Egypt. She was the god of motherhood and children. Horus was the child of Isis and Osiris. He is shown as falcon and was the sky god of ancient Egypt and the one who gave power to the pharaoh. Bes was a very important god who protected the women and the child during childbirth. Khunum was the god who was supposed to have created mankind on a potters' wheel and breathed life into them. Seth was the god of chaos who killed his brother and plucked out one of Horus's eye, but the Egyptian still respected him. Anubis was a superior god. He was the god of funeral, supervisor of embalming and the protector of the death. He was usually painted on the walls of tombs and shown as a god with a jackal or wild dog head. Throth was the god of wisdom, Sekhem was the god of medicine, Hathor was the goddess of love and dancing, and Sobek was the god of water.

Temples to the gods and goddesses

There were many temples that were dedicated to gods and goddesses in ancient Egypt. The Temple at Abu Simbel was built by Ramses II, honoring Amon-Re, Ptah and Harakhte. The Luxor Temples has hundred gates, and the Temple of Karnak was dedicated to Amon-Re. The Temple of Narmuthis was dedicated to Sobek and was built by Amenemhet III. The Temples of Hathor or Dendara was devoted to goddess Hathor. It has big columns and pillars. The famous Temples of Kom Ombo was built to honor Horus and Sobek.

Rulers

Queen Hatshepsut - the famous woman pharaoh

Her family

Hatshepsut was a famous women pharaoh of ancient Egypt. She had been seen as a successful and peaceful ruler. She belonged to Eighteenth Dynasty of the New Kingdom. Her father was Pharaoh Tuthmose I and her mother was Pharoah Amenophris I's sister queen Ahmes. She married her half-brother Tuthmose II and they had a girl called Neferure.

Her Reign

Hatshepsut was Egypt's Pharaoh for twenty- one year, approximately from 1479-1458 B.C. After the death of Hatshepsut's father, her half-brother and husband Tuthmose II succeeded to the throne. Tuthmose III, her stepson was very young, so she became the co-ruler of Egypt. Lather she imprisoned Thuthmose III and proclaimed herself as the Pharaoh of Egypt. To make herself more suitable and agreeable to the people and priest of Egypt, she dressed and acted like a male pharaoh. Hatshepsut must have been exceptional person to rule in a male dominated society, but she was helped by many advisors like Inemi and Neshi. During her prosperous reign, she performed the duties of the traditional pharaohs. She headed both the priesthood of Amon-Re and the administration. She overlooked the tax system. She also wagged wars with neighboring kingdoms. She sent out two military expeditions into Nubia (Kush). Her expedition to into Punt brought in wealth like gold, ivory, ebony, and leopard skins. It also greatly changed the trade system. The middleman system was eliminated, and the merchants could bring in as much wealth as the warriors. She was also a great builder and her reign reached great architectural achievements. Many of Hatshepsut's strategies worked and were well accepted her court and the priests.

End of her rule and death

Hatshepsut disappeared mysteriously after about twenty-one years of ruling Egypt. She was said to be in her middle age, when she died, but the cause of her death remained a mystery. Her step-son, Tuthmose III succeeded her to the throne of Egypt and he destroyed most of Hatshepsuts' work. Recently, her mummy has been identified, using a tooth as evidence. Scientists say she was fat person, and the probable cause of death was diabetes.

Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten)

His family

Amenhotep IV was born around 1370 B.C. His parents were Pharaoh Amenhotep III, and Queen Tiy. Amenhotep IV was raised in a very traditional Egyptian manner. He learned all the skills a pharaoh needed to know. Later, Amenhotep IV married a beautiful woman named Nefertiti. She was believed to be Egypt's most beautiful and powerful women. After he got married, Amenhotep IV had six daughters through Nefertiti. King Tutankhamun was his son through another wife Kiya, who was also his sister.

Akhenaten's Reign

Amenhotep IV was one of the most profound and controversial pharaoh that ruled Egypt. He led Egypt in a way that tagged him as a "Heretic Pharaoh". He ruled during the Amarna period. His rule started at around 1382 B.C. Akhenaten believed in only one god, Aton. To honor his god, Amenhotep IV called himself Akhenaten. During Akhenaten's reign, the other gods were banished. Just the sun god was in worshipped. In order to disconnect with the other gods, Akhenaten made a new capital city called Akhenaten, now Amarna in honor of the god, Aton. He promulgated he was the only person able to discourse with his son god. He stopped the worship of Amon-Re, and shut down all the other sacred temples of Ancient Egypt. Many people were unhappy about this. The art during the Amarna period saw a big change and people were represented as they were. He was different from most pharaohs. He depicted himself as a human rather than god. This helped him to understand his surroundings. Bek was his chief artist. His paintings were very unique, and detailed and full of life. This not only showed Akhenaten's naturalness, but also his respect for nature. Akhenaten built a huge temple for Aton in his own capital city, Akhenaten. Not believing in the other gods of Egypt and the change of the rule began to outrange the people of Egypt. This left the population uneasy, and unhappy. Many cities in Egypt were denied of their estates and plantations. Corruption had increased, and the entire Kingdom was in chaos.

End of his rule and his Death

Akhenaten's reign ended with his death in about the year 1338 B.C. Scientists believe that he was murdered. His son, King Tutankhamun restored the old gods, and the old capital city. The name of Akhenaten and Nefertiti was hated and they were eraced from inscriptions. Their temples were destroyed the new capital city, Akhenaten was ruined. His mummy was never been found. But now, scientists think they might have identified the mummy of this "Heretic Pharaoh".

Pharaoh Tutankhamun (King Tut)

His Family

Tutankhamun, better known as King Tut, was born was born around 1343 B.C. and he was probably born in Amarna. His father was Pharaoh Akhenaten and his mother is believed to be Kiya. His original name was Tutankhaten with means "The Living Image of Aton". He married his half-sister Ankhes, who was the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Tut had two daughters who were stillborn at birth. The young Tutankhamun is thought to have received the best education along with other royal family members. The art of writing in hieroglyphics was an important part of his education He would have also enjoyed sports, board games, hunting fishing.

His Reign

Tutankhamun became Egypt Pharaoh approximately in 1333 BC. He was a pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and the time was The New Kingdom period. He was nine year old when he ascended the throne. After his father Akhenaten death, Egypt was in great confusion. Around 1330 BC, to calm the people, and from the probable pressure from the priests and traditionalists, Tutankhamun and his queen moved the capital back to the old capital city of Thebes which was the center of worship of Ancient god Amun. To show his loyalty to Amun, he also changed his name from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamun. He was a great builder.and constructed temples and other monument at Thebes and Karnak, and dedicated them to Amun. He restored many old traditional customs and ceremonies. He waged wars with Nubia, Syria and Hittites and resorted stability and added wealth to Egypt.

His Death

Tutankhamun ruled Egypt for about ten years. Around 1325 BC, after the war with Hittities, he died suddenly. People believed that he was murdered, but the reason for his death remained unknown. In 1929, Mr. Howard Carter and his team discovered Tutankhamun's sealed tomb with his intact mummy in the Valley of the Kings. Scientists think that he might have died due to a crippling disease, weakness and as a product of incest. But still the real cause of his death is not ascertained as Tut holds on to his secrets. Tut was the last in his family-line, so he was succeeded to the throne by his grand vizier, Ay, who became the new Pharaoh.

Conclusion

The ancient Egyptian civilization was one of the oldest cultures that existed. From the many archeological finds, and from the great monument left behind by ancient Egyptians, we have learnt many facts including their food, gods, their rulers, tradition/ceremonial ways, writing system, sports and their general way of life. All evidences, point out to the rich culture the once flourished in ancient Egypt.

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